New Jersey sets transportation summit

| 1/7/2003

New Jersey has scheduled a transportation summit for Wednesday, Jan. 8, during which the governor and numerous experts will develop ideas to improve the state's roads and other transit systems, The Newark Star-Ledger reported Jan. 6.

One of the key issues that has yet to be resolved - and which is unlikely to be discussed at the summit - is a possible increase in the state's fuel taxes to pay for highway work, the newspaper said.

The state has already seen a number of increases in travel costs recently. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority raised tolls Jan. 1, increasing cash tolls 17 percent and E-ZPass tolls 10 percent at rush hour and 5 percent during other times. The higher tolls - which media reports said would raise about $41 million - are part of a two-stage toll hike the turnpike authority said would help pay for a $917 million capital improvement program.

In addition, Tolls for trucks and cars crossing bridges operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission jumped Nov. 30, in some cases about 300 percent. Truckers' tolls have increased to $2.25 per axle. A second round of planned hikes will cost truckers $3.25 per axle starting in January 2004. The commission, which operates 20 bridges between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said the new rates would help fund a 10-year, $526 million maintenance plan.

At the summit, Gov. James E. McGreevey is expected to demand that construction designed to alleviate congestion and accidents gets done more quickly. Roughly $5 billion worth of transportation projects have been proposed in the state, The Star-Ledger reported.

In addition, officials said McGreevey would create a special transportation commission and issue an executive order calling for enhanced highway safety, better road signs and other improvements.